Long Beach State 49ers
Overall Rank: #33
Conference Rank: #1 Big West Conference
Coming off a very successful 2011, where Long Beach State returned to NCAA post season play for the 20th time, the 49ers are poised to make another appearance in the tournament. Fifth year Head Coach Kim Sowder guided her team to 38 wins. Eight 49ers were named All Conference including freshman standout pitcher Erin Jones-Wesley. Long Beach State returns six starters from last year, with just two seniors in that mix. Though they are young, it is a squad with solid experience. The 49ers finished second in conference play in 2011 and posted regular season wins over Oklahoma, Baylor, BYU, Houston, Fresno St. and DePaul.
2011: 38-18, 15-6
2011 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kim Sowder, 5th Season
Sophomore Hannah De Gaetano, junior Nalani St. Germain and sophomore Sarah Carrasco will need to provide the spark for the Long Beach State offense. Each garnered All-Conference honors in 2011 and will need to improve their games to keep the 49ers attack, which hit just .279 with 28 HR’s and only 30 stolen bases, moving in a positive direction. St. Germain, who led the team in most statistical categories, played all but one game last season, hitting .307, with eight HR’s, with a .503 slugging percentage and was perfect in stolen bases, swiping 12. Carrasco is the highest returning batting average at .325.
Sophomore Jones-Wesley will carry the load in the circle. She’ll look to build on her tremendous freshman campaign where she went 23-8 with a 1.80 ERA. She was named Big West Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, only the second time in league history a player has earned two major awards in the same season. Along the way she beat a host of quality teams, including WCWS OU and Baylor, who Jones-Wesley no-hit in early March. Senior Taylor Petty, who was 6-4 with 2.34 ERA, appeared in 27 games last season, starting 12 times, and should again provide solid backup for Jones-Wesley. Highly decorated freshman right-hander Amanda Hansen will have a chance to make an impression because she will see time in the circle.
Who to Watch:
Freshman infielder Shayna Kimbrough and freshman outfielder Leilani Tupua are expected to make immediate impacts. Kimbrough had an outstanding career at Pacifica and Frontier High Schools where she was a standout offensively, hitting over .500 her junior year. Tupua, from Oxnard, CA, can hit for power and slap. Both will make the 49ers faster and more versatile. JUCO transfer Ashlynn Booker brings added pop to the lineup. In 2011 she was an NFCA JUCO All-American and hit a school record 22 HR’s.
Jones-Wesley will be the key for Long Beach State in 2012. If she can improve on her 2011 performance, the 49ers have a very good chance to win the Big West Conference. With the loss of team leader Liz Javier to graduation, youth will need to serve the 49ers well throughout the lineup, with likely just two seniors to provide veteran leadership. Dialing up the offense to the next level will also be an important priority to support Jones-Wesley and the defense. If St. Germain, Carrasco and DeGaetano can help an attack that returns just 19 HR’s, produce a bit more power and newcomers Kimbrough and Tupua do their part, Long Beach State will be a challenge for teams in the conference and give them an excellent opportunity to return to the NCAA tournament for the 21st time in school history.
Projected Postseason: NCAA
At Bats: Nalani St. Germain, IF, 163
Hits: Nalani St. Germain, IF, 50
Home Runs: Nalani St. Germain, IF, 8
RBIs: Nalani St. Germain, IF, 30
Runs: Nalani St. Germain, IF, 28
Stolen Bases: Nalani St. Germain, IF, 12
Wins: Erin Jones-Wesley, P, 23
Innings Pitched: Erin Jones-Wesley, P, 198
Strikeouts: Erin Jones-Wesley, P, 172
Saves: Petty Taylor, P, 5